I continue to be amazed with the evolution of technology in procurement and supply chain management. The advances I have seen these past thirty years make me excited about what we will see in the next thirty.
When I talk with my students from NIGP or the University of California, I am quite impressed with their technology proficiency. Many of them are digital natives, meaning they have grown up in a connected world of Internet and smart phones. Technology is a big part of their everyday lives, so it is really second nature to them. New software? No problem!
I have often shared my story of the evolving package, so here’s the quick version. Early in my career I tracked an important delivery by calling the supplier or shipper, but then package tracking came along and I could do this on the Internet. Today, I don’t need to track my package, because it tracks itself. It will notify me on my mobile device when it is scheduled to arrive.
Today we have an endless array of technologies available to us in procurement. These include digital procurement systems, procure-to-pay applications, contract management solutions, and automated retrieval systems. This list could go on and on.
Since there is so much technology in our world, does that mean that procurement and supply chain professionals are going to be replaced by automation? Students and professional colleagues often pose this question to me, especially those that are looking to enter the profession. I will share my response with our Government Procurement readers.
Procurement and supply chain is alive and well, and will continue to be an important part of our local and global business communities. The jobs they do for their organizations will not be replaced by robots. That is often what we see in sci-fi movies, but I don’t think that is what we will see in procurement.
Will each of us be impacted by technology? Sure. There may even be some of us that assume a different role, but I think we will still be around. For example, a warehouse specialist may not be retrieving a part off the shelf any longer, as that function is often being automated. In fact, recent years have seen record numbers of robotic equipment orders in North America. But that same specialist can take on more advanced duties, such as system implementation or inventory forecasting. In many ways it is the “thinking part” of supply chain management that is irreplaceable.
More traditional procurement processes such as distribution of solicitations, and receipt of sealed proposals are also being automated. This will allow a procurement specialist to let technology handle the routine duties while they focus on evaluation criteria and contract negotiation. By leveraging technology, we can help ourselves and the profession advance.
To my procurement and supply chain colleagues I give this Mark Twain quote – “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
Darin Matthews, FNIGP, CPPO, CPSM, is the director of west coast operations for Negometrix, an international leader in digital procurement. He has extensive management experience, speaks throughout the world on procurement issues, and has published several articles and books on procurement and supply chain management.